What Financial Crises Reveal About the Real Nature of Money

by francine Hardaway on December 17, 2008

It has been interesting watching the last six months through the lens of my life philosophy. I practice non-attachment (as best I can, since no one's perfect). This has been an incredible time to watch what happens to people who do not.

It all started on June 2, when my friend Scott Coles in Phoenix committed suicide, and his business unraveled upon his death like a roll of toilet paper being spread around my house by Buppy the Puppy. Not only were all the furnishings of his elaborate home in Arizona sold at a live auction yesterday for pennies on the dollar (I didn't watch the auction on the web, but I was told that was possible, and that you could even bid online), but all the projects he funded have ground to a halt, and everyone involved is suing everybody else.  The lawyers are at full employment, while many people who trusted Scott to provide them with 10% returns find themselves adjusting their lifestyles.

Scott was only a bellweather. I have always wondered, as the owner of several businesses, how people made as much money as he did, or as the guys I knew who retired from Goldman Sachs in their forties after grueling years of sleepless nights and unbearable stress (and huge bonuses) did. There seemed to be a secret I didn't know. They didn't deal in nickels and dimes. They didn't have to call after their invoices. They didn't have to endure the coming and going of happy or unhappy customers.  They just "made" money.

But over the summer, as I watched Bear Stearns, Lehmann Brothers, Citigroup, AIG, and all the others unravel at the hands of the masters of the universe, I began to realize that people DON'T actually "make" that much money. They "rent" it or they "borrow" it. They temporarily have the use of it. But as the Native Americans always thought, the land is entrusted to them temporarily, and belongs to the deities. So does the money.

Bernie Madoff, nice Jewish guy from New York who worked with regulators and gave to charities, is just another guy who rented a lot of money, used it, and now will commit virtual suicide by paying the penalties of shame, guilt, and perhaps prison for the rest of his life. He thought the money was his. It wasn't. The people who invested in his funds thought the money was theirs, but it wasn't theirs, either.

This question of what "money" actually is and where it comes from has always fascinated me, because I seem to be happy with and without it. I'm finally coming to the conclusion that "money," like its cousin "retirement," is a creation of the imagination.

UPDATE: Dashiell Hardaway Richard was born to my daughter Samantha and her husband Daniel yesterday at 10:54. he weighs 9 lbs., 7 oz., is 21.5" long, has all his fingers and toes, and seems beautiful to us!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: